Summarizing in a nutshell

Besides being an English teacher, I’ve been an e-moderator for a while now. And one of the first things I learned when I started studying to become one were the concepts of weaving and summarizing.

As an e-moderator, I have to populate forums – I have to create several different forum threads where the course participants will have a discussion about a specific topic. Also, I have to moderate the discussion – I have to make sure all course participants are able to learn together and make the most out of it. Therefore, I have to read participants’ posts, comment on them, ask participants questions, weave and summarize the discussion.

Briefly, the main difference between weaving and summarizing is that when we summarize a discussion, the topic has been discussed thoroughly and we look back and bring that discussion to an end (Salmon, 2011), whereas, when we weave, we connect participants’ thoughts and ideas and guide the discussion (Harris-John, 2006) and we look forward as we want participants to contribute more to the discussion (Salmon, 2011).

In this post, I would like to focus on summarizing as I really enjoy it (I can be very creative and use several different tools when doing so) and as I’ve realized we English teachers can use it in our classes, as well.

So, first of all, let’s have a look at how to summarize. Salmon (2007) suggests that we have to “collect all the relevant messages into one document; thank and praise the participants who contributed; … highlight individual participant’s contributions that add fresh ideas or look at the topic in an interesting way; add your teaching comments or critique, point out omissions, other perspectives or applications, and make reference to further literature or ideas; add a short, further example of your own if necessary; shorten the sentences, delete all unnecessary material; end with congratulations, praise or a positive note of some kind; add a question or reflection for further consideration, if appropriate; add further reading or follow up if appropriate (preferably electronically sourced).”

In online courses, we summarize discussions in many different ways. We can add a final post to the discussion – we can either write some paragraphs or create a bulleted list. We can also create videos, presentations, mind maps, word clouds, online multimedia posters, comic strips, infographics, quizzes, crossword puzzles, and so on.

Finally, here you have some ideas for your classes:

Now, tell me… do you have any other ideas?



Michele Schwertner is a freelance teacher, teacher trainer, and e-moderator. She has been teaching English for over 20 years and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Educational Technologies at UFSM (Universidade Federal de Santa Maria). Her research and teaching interests lie in teacher development, distance education, CALL, digital learning/teaching materials and resources, e-moderating, multimodalities and multiliteracies.

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